I’ve managed to keep this site quiet for the past few months, but on the off-chance that somebody might find it, I should perhaps come clean with my intentions. I’ve been working on new camera designs, a lightweight packet loading 11x17 and an 8x12, and an 8x10 with a standard back. I’ll be building the prototype of the 8x12 within the next few months, and I expect to learn a lot from it- specifically, this is a production prototype, based on lessons learned from the 'proof of concept' prototype.
In the world of large format photography, few cameras deviate very far from the accepted types. The last time there was a paradigm shift was when Dick Phillips designed and produced the Explorer, a camera which has often been copied and which is highly prized by collectors. Perhaps there is a view that it’s easier and more profitable to copy innovation (especially innovation well received by the market) than to put any effort or resources into new design. Since the world of large format photography is a tiny, and for the most part, conservative one, that is perhaps understandable.
When I started to think about how a large format camera could be reimagined for the 21st century using modern materials and production techniques, I was struck by a few good ideas. So much so that I started work on them. I’m now in a position to make the outrageous claim that the next camera system will be a truly groundbreaking design, in terms of its usability and lightness, and in its execution and build quality. In short, my intention is to make the very best large format field camera ever built, in sizes 8x10 and over. 5x7 and 4x5 may come later.
Many people already own the best large format camera ever built, such is the attachment people make with their cameras. Many others claim that the design of a camera is immaterial, that the truly difficult thing is making a photograph, and perhaps they’re right. Others enjoy large format photography because it offers access to usable antiques from a time long gone, and for some of those, any form of progress might be viewed with suspicion. So be it.
One thing is sure, there is a difference in the process of making pictures using cameras and lenses this large. My intention is to make these cameras better than they have ever been made before. I have a vision of how the design of the large format camera might have progressed, had it not been consumed by the relentless march of progress and convenience. However, I would not have been able to attempt this project without the combined wisdom of large format photographers as represented on the internet, on the Large Format Photographic Forum in particular.
To all those who ever offered an opinion about the design or operation of the larger camera- I’ve probably read it, taken it on board, and used it to inform the design of these cameras. I thank you…
... to carbon cameras- if you’ve found yourself here, you’re probably a member of a very small (but growing) group of people interested in large format film photography. The site covers the design of the cameras (in particular, the new ULF system represented by the C1117 prototype) as well as the pictures produced by them; perhaps the only question not covered in detail is - why? Why large format, or Ultra Large Format? Perhaps the answer can be found in the print, the only thing that can justify this choice of equipment.
The camera is only one constituent of the semantics of the print, but it’s a vital one. Using a big camera is not an easy option; there must be a payoff in what you can achieve with it. I would really like for others to get a chance to use the camera, but it’s a difficult discipline, and preconceptions formed by experiences gained with smaller cameras are difficult to overcome. As with any picture, the results will be dependent on the subject, the light, the composition, and the presentation, and if you’re lucky, you’ll elicit some kind of response from a viewer- I suppose that’s part of the reason people take photographs, whether for themselves or others.
I’ve spent so long on the design and making of the cameras that it’s fair to say I’ve neglected photography and darkroom time. Now that I have a working Ultra Large Format camera, I’m very tempted to move on to the next one, and the next one after that. Perfection may be impossible to achieve, but every time something is improved, you move one step closer. However, making pictures with this new camera is now an imperative. I hope you bookmark the site, or subscribe to the blog, or the other sharing options, where I’ll announce any updates or new pictures. Thank you for visiting- joseph burns December 2013